The confession of a Mississippi carnival worker accused in a brutal sexual assault in Elkhorn should not be thrown out, a Walworth County judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Phillip Koss ruled against a motion filed on behalf of Terrence D. LeFlore, 24. The motion accused Elkhorn Police Detective Thomas Bushey of using illegitimate “coercive tactics” during a third interrogation shortly after a corrections officer woke LeFlore.
Mackenzie Renner, LeFlore’s lawyer, had requested the court throw out the statements made by her client in his third interview in nine hours because of how Bushey handled the interrogation. Koss eventually ruled the interrogation was fair.
“I don’t think the detective did anything wrong,” Koss said Thursday.
District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld earlier charged LeFlore with attempted first-degree intentional homicide using a dangerous weapon, two counts of first-degree sexual assault, armed robbery, aggravated battery, first-degree reckless injury and obstructing an officer.
LeFlore has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was employed by North American Midway Entertainment, a company that supplied entertainment at the Walworth County Fair.
Elkhorn police Aug. 28 responded to the area of the Subway restaurant on South Lincoln Street where a 21-year-old woman was found partially clothed and unconscious in her car. Authorities said she was “badly injured,” and hospital staff later said her brain was swelling and her skull was severely fractured, according to the criminal complaint.
Renner on Nov. 20 filed a motion to suppress her client’s confession. In her motion, she said Bushey woke her client in the Walworth County Jail at 1:20 a.m. after the two had spoken twice between 5 and 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Elkhorn Police Department.
Renner in the motion says LeFlore’s “sole concern was release from custody.” He was away from friends or family.
Bushey interviewed LeFlore, who was still wrapped in a blanket, in a room Bushey estimated to be 5 by 8 feet in size. According to a transcript, Bushey repeatedly asked LeFlore why he picked the woman, why he sexually assaulted her and if he meant to kill her.
Renner said Bushey used the Reid technique, which she said could result in false confessions. Bushey opened with a monologue showing certainty of guilt, cut LeFlore off and offered some explanations for the behavior that were “less morally reprehensible,” she argued.
In the 20-minute interrogation, Bushey spoke 2,308 words, while LeFlore spoke 703, according to Renner’s motion.
“Now I’m going to says (sic) something to you before you say anything,” Bushey said, according to a transcript in Renner’s motion. “I know you lied ought (sic) to me and I know you assaulted this girl. I know that.
“I have to go to the DA which I told you earlier and tell him whether or not you’ve been honest with me or not, and that might help you with some consideration,” Bushey continued. “Maybe you can do some apologizing. I’m not telling you what to say, but I’m telling you we have all the proof we need right now and I don’t want you to keep lying to me about it.”
During the third interrogation, LeFlore said he had just wanted money, that he “only hit her one time, and she just fell.” He denied raping the woman, but said he removed her clothes to make it appear somebody had raped her.
Renner said just because LeFlore wasn’t hit doesn’t mean he wasn’t coerced. The third interrogation, Renner said, “violated due process.”
Bushey testified in court Thursday, the day before he is set to retire from his 40-year career.
Among the evidence Elkhorn police obtained from LeFlore’s possession was a shirt from the woman’s car, and authorities found internet searches on his phone for “fingerprints and blood” and “how can you tell if someone raped someone else,” according to the complaint.
Wiedenfeld argued the information Bushey put before LeFlore was factual. The detective never hit LeFlore or threatened him, the district attorney said.
Koss agreed with Wiedenfeld’s reasoning. Although LeFlore could have been a little tired, he was not kept awake for hours without food and water, the judge said.
LeFlore is next due in court at 1:15 p.m. Jan. 8.